Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pastors Causing Pain

See, here's a question. For ministers of the Gospel mainly but others may join in. If you absolutely knew you would grow the church by 100 people tomorrow but 5 would be so upset at the methodology they would leave, would you do it?

Let's say all other things being equal. You are not allowed an 'it depends' answer. You have researched and your methodology is not illegal. It is good. It will lead to long-term new converts and disciples of Jesus. You cannot stop the leavers leaving and they will blame you for the rest of their lives for 'ruining their church.'

You are not allowed to say 'It's not all about numbers.' I've reduced the problem to the state where it is.

What amazes me is that some of you are now umming and arring (never written that before, is that how you spell those words?) about this. You are genuinely considering not growing your church by 100 in order to keep 5 happy.

I don't understand you (and you probably me).

We sometimes have to make decisions that may upset people but are for the greater good. Empathy and pastoral care just get right in the way.

The world divides into two types of people and you are the other type. You probably wonder how the person who gave the order to drop the first atomic bombs slept at night. My guess is that he did the maths and then slept fine. And that will sound appalling to you.

16 comments:

RuthJ said...

Usually 'ah-ing'.

(I know that wasn't the bit you were hoping for comments on, but you did ask!)

Charlie said...

Haha, I was completely with you until you likened it to dropping the atom bomb! Let's face it, leading a church into growth is a little different to inflicting death and suffering on millions. I think.

Marcella said...

I think that having an aggregate gain of 95 is worth rocking the boat. The mistake that some church leaders make is thinking that losing 100 of the "wrong" people is worth it in order to gain 100 of the "right" ones. And thinking that they can determined who is "right" and who is "wrong"...

Rich Burley said...

Yes, absolutely. About the church situation. I'm not sure I follow as enthusiastically about Hiroshima, though.

Sally said...

A leader who is prepared to say no to the status quo, take risks, following convicted vision can bring growth in the sometimes, correct discontent in keeping things as they are. I personally hope any changing ideas will be thought through and prayed about carefully over a period of time, encompasing others views where appropriate. Though 'Old things do pass away and behold, all things do become new' 2 Corinthians 5 etc. Heading forward with a definate decision/attitude is an undoubted problem if a leader is a people pleaser and assumes a maternal/nurturing role with being driven by fear of upsetting that will end up paralysing the God sent venture. However I do disagree that people have to be in either of these two catagories, pastoral with empathy or deliver and fire people. Perhaps the challenge for us all is to handle any new initiative we may feel convicted by with a mixture of a loving respect and fundamental care, together with an ability, (on an adult to adult level)to move forward and make definate decisions, being also prepared to 'let go' of individuals who too make their choice.

David Keen said...

The other thing you forgot to mention is that the 5 who leave would would complain to the local paper and the story would end up in the national tabloids. Still not a reason for not doing it, but you need to have the proverbial rhinos hide. Hell hath no fury like an Anglican scorned.

St said...

Good comments folks. Charlie I wasn't 'likening' this to Hiroshima but saying it is exactly the same issue but with catastrophically greater consequences.

Tim Goodbody said...

without hesitation I would do this. Chances are some of the 5 would come back anyway (or join another church)
Can you tell us what the strategy is?

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of the most sad blogs of yours I have read. I cannot get the analogy with the first atomic bomb. Empathy and pastoral care rarely get in the way but alert us to the fact our actions may effect others, some in Circumstances that would be challenging for any of us. They should not paralyse us into inaction. If the vision is right of course we should move on but if we cease to care about fall-out then I think that is sad. Would you swap 10 for 5 or 6 for 5 ? Or 5 for 5 if they gave you less trouble?

St said...

The decision the atom bomb droppers took (and I'm not saying it was right) was to calculate that a large loss of life now would save an even larger loss of life later. I'm not, repeat not, saying they were right, merely that it is the same type of decision as losing something now to gain something better later.

Nor was I saying I didn't care about fall out, nuclear or otherwise.

And the ten for five swap is irrelevant, although God had a problem like this with Abraham once.

I simply, and deliberately, posed the problem such that it was a clear gain. If it was less clear we'd have to do some different thinking.

Thanks for the comment.

Debbie Peatman said...

Fascinating one, Steve. But I'm just not sure you can be so absolutist about the maths. If, for example, I had 100 people in my church who said they'd walk out if I welcomed a gay couple to receive communion, I'd swap the 100 for the 2, and I'd regard that as "a clear gain". And what about leaving the 99 to go and search out the lost sheep....I just think in the end, you have to say your prayers, follow your conscience and be thankful that divine maths doesn't always seem quite to tally with ours. But if it was a case of taking out the pews to welcome 100 kids and losing 5 traditional church furnishing fans - I wouldn't lose a wink of sleep over that one :o)

St said...

I agree with you Debbie but you have subtly changed the rules from the clear cut situation I suggested to one less so. By all means let's talk about what principles we have that are worth losing members over, but that's a different matter entirely.

Debbie Peatman said...

Just reread your original proposition, and you're right - you had in fact put enough in your small print to allay my fears about methodology. So - yes; I'm the same type as you, it seems!

St said...

Debbie that's possibly more frightening than we both imagined. Silence is called for.

Debbie Peatman said...

Fruits of silent reflection:

Don't think empathy or pastoral care are really the things that would stand in the way of making the sort of decision you're describing. More likely would be a)lack of courage in the face of people directing their anger at you b) excessive need to be liked c)lack of imagination, which would prevent you from empathising with the 100 people not standing in front of you as opposed to the 5 who are d) forgetting that Jesus always seems to have a bias towards outsiders rather than insiders, such that he'd happily swap 100 of the latter for 5 of the former (back to the lost sheep - but which of us is brave enough to employ a methodology like that?)

Of course, it could just be that the metal in my brain has effected a personality change....

St said...

Quality thinking Debbie.